The Pope in the storm of Tacloban: We have a God who weeps and walks with us in life’s catastrophes
(AsiaNews) - "We have a God who is able to cry with us, to walk with us in
the most difficult moments of our life". He "was nailed to the cross
and from there does not abandon us." This was the message that Pope
Francis repeated many times in his improvised homily during Mass celebrated
near the airport in Tacloban, the capital of the island of Leyte in November
2013 which was hard hit by Typhoon Yolanda-Haiyan, leaving over 6 thousand people
dead. Yolanda is the strongest typhoon ever recorded on the planet, which
destroyed 90% of the city of Tacloban and hit at least 14 million people. While
there has been a great commitment of the Church and a great solidarity, about a
million people are still homeless.
The visit to Tacloban is the reason for this papal trip to the Philippines. Francis told those present as much : "When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you - a little bit late, but I'm here".
His visit was delayed and there were forced schedule changes due to the approach of Tropical Storm Amang, with winds up to 130 mph and rain. Despite this, the Pope was able to celebrate Mass, wearing a lightweight plastic poncho over his vestments, along with all the celebrants and faithful. The rain and strong winds did not even stop the islanders, who have gathered in tens of thousands in the area close to the airport to attend mass.
Visibly moved, at the time of the homily, Francis put aside his written text and asked the people's "permission" to speak in Spanish, taking advantage of the presence of "a good translator."
Referring to the first reading (Hebrews, 4,14- ff), he said: "We have a high priest who is capable of sympathising with our weaknesses. Jesus is like us. Jesus lived like us and is the same us in every respect, except sin because he was not a sinner".
"But to be more like us he assumed our condition and our sin. He made
himself into sin. This is what St Paul tells us "
"Jesus always goes before us and when we pass an experience, a cross, he passed there before us. And if today we find ourselves here 14 months afterwards, 14 months precisely after the Typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing we will not weaken in our faith because Jesus has been here before us. In his Passion he assumed all our pain".
"I am here - he continued - to tell you that Jesus is the Lord, that Jesus did not abandon us.
Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It's true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life".
The pope then confesses his embarrassment: " So many of you have lost everything. I don't know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.
Many of you have asked the Lord - why lord? And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds with his heart from the cross. I have no more words for you. Let us look to Christ. He is the lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced".
Indicating then the statue of Our Lady and Child, beside the altar, he added: "In the moments when we have so much pain and no longer understand anything. All we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say "Mother" - like a child does when it is afraid. It is perhaps the only words we can say in difficult times "
The pontiff then invited the assembly to be silent: "Let us respect a moment of silence together and look to Christ on the cross. He understands us because he endured everything. Let us look to our Mother and, like a little child, let us hold onto her mantle and with a true heart say - "Mother".
"We are not alone - has concluded- we have a Mother, Mary, and a great Brother, Jesus. We are not alone. We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help. And we too, because of this, we feel more like brothers and sisters because we helped each other. This is what comes from my heart. Forgive me if I have no other words to express myself. Please know that Jesus never lets you down. Know that the tenderness of Mary never lets you down. And holding onto her mantle and with the power that cones from Jesus' love on the cross, let us move forward and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord".